The Girl From Ipanema?
Despite all of those marvellous thoughts that appeared in your mind, why is it that most of your friends are off travelling in Europe or Asia, and don’t give South America, let alone Rio de Janeiro, much attention?
It’s like the South America continent never qualifies for the World Cup of travel destinations, but Europe and Asia are always lifting the trophy. Ironic how Brazil have lifted the trophy more times than any other country in the world when it comes to the World Cup of football.
I went to Rio de Janeiro as a volunteer in July 2015 and volunteered with the Brazilian-based company Iko Poran. This experience allowed me to get a deeper cultural understanding of Rio de Janeiro and how “Cariocas” (a word used to call people from Rio de Janeiro) live because part of the program was that I met local Cariocas, and learned about Rio de Janeiro from their perspective and their personal accounts.
In the face of unpopularity as a travel destination, I will unveil four reasons, from my own perspective and from what I learned, why Rio de Janeiro should be the next winner in your World Cup of travel destinations.
Guest Post by Parin Hemtanon
Rio de Janeiro is lucky to be the owner of breath-taking views and golden beaches. It will really teleport you from reality to paradise.
When it comes to the beaches, the two most popular in Rio de Janeiro are Copacabana Beach and Ipanema Beach. If you think you’ve seen golden beaches, then I suggest you get yourself to Rio de Janeiro ASAP! These two will startle you with disbelief at how such a shade of gold actually exists!
As for the sea: the water is clear, and the waves are as big as a lorry, crashing down on the sands like a brick of houses. If you go in the water, then expect to get trapped under the waves. These are the moments of paradise you dream of when you go to the beach, right?
However, despite that, they are popular spots, so lots of people do go there. If your kind of paradise involves peace and quiet alongside your escape to the golden beaches, then I would suggest Praia Vermelha. Though this beach is much smaller, you are guaranteed to get a spot to sit on the beach and have a calming therapeutic session with nature.
There really is something for everyone.
Rio de Janeiro is also the landlord of the Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. These two places elevate you up into the skies for you to experience Rio de Janeiro from a heightened perspective, both literally and figuratively.
You can see random mountains that stick its head out of the sea; the colourful houses of the favelas clinging onto mountains; and the contrast between the metropolis and the nature that makes up Rio de Janeiro.
I promise you won’t be disappointed with Carioca paradise!
The American continent (excluding the US) receives 131 million visitors each year, with Brazil accommodating 6.6 million visitors - making it the 4th most visited country in the continent.
South East Asia, on the other hand, receives a staggering 323 million visitors every year. The 4th most visited country on the continent is Hong Kong, which takes on an astonishing 27.9 million travellers yearly.
As if the statistics weren’t clear enough, just look around you. Doesn’t it feel like everyone you know is vacating in Asia?
It is clear that Brazil is not as popular a holiday spot as are countries in Asia. This makes it the perfect place for you to travel, explore and find your oasis. Going off the beaten track gives you the opportunity to capitalise on the fact that there are fewer footprints: fewer people have visited Brazil, so fewer people will have been to the places you could explore, meaning that when you find your peaceful places, it will feel more like YOU found it; like it BELONGS to you.
What’s a better feeling than knowing you were the first to find something?
With that said, Rio de Janeiro is the ideal starting point to begin marking your territory in America because of the beautiful places that it offers, and the way of life that is contrary to what we in the Western countries are accustomed to.
Got your boots on? Ready? Good. Let’s go.
Different way of life
I feel like the Western world is so strict on time management. Everything has to be done in a timely manner.
At work, deadlines are rigid, and a failure to comply with them results in monumental consequences. Meeting your friends also calls for honouring time constraints as well, albeit slightly more flexible.
In Rio de Janeiro, the script is flipped upside down. Life is slowed down, resulting in a more peaceful and easy-going ambience. Cariocas prevent any kind of pressure to interfere with this.
Time management is more blurred, or at least Cariocas have a different definition of it.
There was one time, the organisation that I was volunteering for organised a trip to the famous Maracana Stadium (the venue of the Brazil World Cup final in 2016) for the children. Us volunteers were invited. We were instructed to arrive at the coach docking station at 1pm. Being from a Western society, we arrived at 12.30pm, expecting the coach to take off at the specified time.
But guess what?
We ended up leaving at 3pm! A whole 2 hours after we were supposed to leave!
Our efforts to arrive before 1 pm were all in vain.
Feeling irritable about this very delayed departure, I expected the staff members of the organisation to feel the same way, only to my surprise that everyone on the bus who were not volunteers was buzzing with joy to be going to the Maracana Stadium.
This was a culture shock that I didn’t understand at first.
I noticed this vagueness of a time constraint more often after having experienced it the first time around, and it made me realise that Cariocas approach life with this happy-go-lucky ideology. It was then clear: this was the key factor in the very essence of Carioca living.
I totally get it that you guys are thinking, “Why would I want to experience that? Why don’t they respect time management?”.
But honestly, this way of living is how Cariocas live stress-free, and it encourages them to appreciate the present moment, and is definitely a life philosophy that made me look at myself in the mirror and reassess the important things in life. It is an ideology that we from the Western world could learn a thing or ten from.
Come to Rio de Janeiro and challenge your life philosophy. It will be eye-opening - I swear.
The weather is hot, the people are friendly, and Cariocas love to chill. What’s not to love about this atmosphere?
Cariocas are among the friendliest people you could ever meet. The answer to why Cariocas are friendly lies in the “3 C’s” - a set of laws that I concocted based on my observations during my time in Rio de Janeiro:
● Carnival - the famous annual Brazilian festival which now seems more synonymous with the Cariocas’ approach to life - party hard and have a good time
● Caipirinha - Brazil’s national cocktail which complements their partying antics and friendly nature, and is a social glue that brings people together
● Carefree - the key ingredient to Cariocas having a good time
I went out to by a can of beer from the local convenience store one time, and I spoke to the shopkeeper with the bare minimal Portuguese that I knew. Once the transaction was completed, a gentleman next to me noticed that I ordered in Portuguese, yet do not look like a Brazilian. Naturally, he was intrigued and started talking to me (in Portuguese); asking where I’m from, and what I’m doing in Brazil etc.
This went on and on, and the topic of conversation went deeper and deeper, and I was comprehending less and less. The topics in the final stages of the conversation included politics, and life and death (I think?). Despite the ambiguity, one thing was clear: I was out of my depth, and that gentleman must have sensed it too. But he still proceeded to speak passionately and let his thoughts come spilling out.
The point is that he was friendly enough to just talk to me like I was his friend; he did not treat me like a stranger. Where I’m from, people are suspicious of one another, and it creates a hostile and cold vibe.
Immersing yourself into a society where strangers don’t exist is definitely an experience you should try once in your life. If you take that friendliness back home with you, you could very well transform your community into a more amiable one.
So there it is. Those are the reasons why Rio de Janeiro should qualify for the World Cup of travel destinations.
It is a place that I’d definitely go to again - and that says a lot as I’m not someone who often goes to the same place twice.
Take advantage of it before your friends start going there.
Explore it. Make it yours. Lay down your footprints. Get yourself over to a World Cup winning country!